Winner of the Independent Publishers Book Awards (Gold Medal, Romance)
Set in China in the late 1800’s, The Secret Language of Women tells the story of star-crossed lovers, Zhou Bin Lian, a Eurasian healer, and Giacomo Scimenti, an Italian sailor, driven apart by the Boxer Rebellion.
When Lian is seventeen years old, she accompanies her Swiss father, Dr. Gianluca Brasolin, fluent in Italian, to tend the Italian ambassador, at the Summer Palace of Empress Dowager, where she meets and falls in love with Giacomo.
Through voyage and adventure, their love intensifies, but soon is severed by Lian’s dutiful promise as the wife to another. Forbidden from pursuing her chosen profession as a healer, and despised because she does not have bound feet, she is forced to work in a cloisonné factory while her in-laws raise her daughter, Ya Chen. It is in Nushu, the women’s secret writing, that she chronicles her life and her hopes for the future.
Rebelling against the life forced upon her, she empowers herself to act out against the injustice and becomes the master of her own destiny. But her quest for freedom comes at a costly price: The life of someone close to her, lost in a raging typhoon, a grueling journey to the Yun-kang Caves, and a desperate search for beauty and love in the midst of brutality.
About the Author
Nina Romano earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Florida International University. She’s a world traveler and lover of history. She lived in Rome, Italy, for twenty years, and is fluent in Italian and Spanish. She authored a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates , and has published five poetry collections and two poetry chapbooks. Her most recent poetry collection is Westward: Guided by Starfalls and Moonbows. Romano has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. In America is the final book in the Wayfarer Trilogy from Turner Publishing following the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Award gold medal-winning The Secret Language of Women and Lemon Blossoms.
More about the author at: www.ninaromano.com.
Read an Excerpt
The things that test you and are vanquished bring everlasting joy. The differences between traditional written Chinese and Nüshu, the secret language of women, made it difficult for me to learn it. My mother and grandmother could not write Chinese and learned Nüshu when they were young and wanted me to grasp it too. I cannot say they harped on me or were tyrannical, but I will say they were insistent, and for this I am eternally indebted.
My mother said it challenged me because I wrote like a man and didn’t have to rely solely on Nüshu, the way they did, to communicate with other women. The ideograms of Chinese correspond to a word or part of one, whereas each of the seven hundred characters of Nüshu represent a syllablewomen’s language is phonetic, in Chéngguān dialect, adaptable and pliant for singing, poetry, and writing with such delicate strokes they appear as lines of feathers.
Though learning was problematical, I mastered it, like I do all things I set my mind to
conquer. At the time, I resented the study of it, yet I knew innately one day I would be grateful to possess the knowledge and skill of this secret language, which would offer me strength and solace for a lifetime. And although I was writing in Nüshu, for some reason, I signed with flourish in Chinese: Wǒ Lián.
I am Lian.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a one of those rare books that when you finish it, you don’t want to leave it and start the next. You want to savor it some more and go back and relive it all over again. It’s also the type of book that makes it almost impossible to review, in that I could never do it justice with my lack of ability to express how perfect it really is. Giacomo Scimenti is an Italian sailor stationed in China in the late 1890’s. Giacomo is the chief steward and cook aboard the gunship Leopardo. While standing as honor guard at The Summer Palace in Peking, he sees the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen… Zhou Bin Lian is the only daughter from the marriage of a Swiss doctor and a Chinese woman. Now a widower Lian’s father has set up a practice in southern Peking. Fluent in both Mandarin and Italian he is called to The Summer Palace to treat the Italian Ambassador who has fallen ill, bringing Lian as his assistant. Little does Lian know that she will meet the love of her life… This is an extremely well written book. I’m truly in awe! Right from the start Ms. Romano enchanted me with her writing, she didn’t tell me a story she showed it to me. I felt drawn into the story and had a hard time putting it down throughout the day. The descriptions from the story, the characters, the culture, the history, even the food are richly detailed. I could easily see this book and series made into a movie. It was truly an emotional experience to read Giacomo and Lian’s love story, although it was so much more than just a love story…. I won’t go into any more detail as this story has to be experienced firsthand. It truly is a unique reading experience and one I plan on enjoying and revisiting for years to come. This was the first book I’ve had the pleasure of reading from author Nina Romano but it most definitely will not be the last. Ms. Romano has become an auto buy for me & I highly recommend this book! If I could, I’d easily give it 10 stars!
The Secret Language of Women is a well written, thoughtful book. Multi-layered characters and a historical background made this book a winner for me. The Boxer Rebellion had always been a piece of trivia I knew about, but did not fully understand. Romano brings to the story multiple viewpoints and a breadth of knowledge of Chinese traditions, language and settings. A young woman who is both an insider and outsider in the world around her, and the young soldier who at first only sees the surface of the foreign world around him, but finds himself looking deeper in order to be closer in spirit to the woman with whom he has fallen in love. The heroine experiences heartbreak after heartbreak. Yet, instead of being cloying or excessively sentimental, these tragedies set a thoughtful story of resilience, love and hope. An added bonus, the short stories, told by the characters by way of intimate conversations, was a wonderful glimpse into the characters worlds. Zhugong and Baba's stories, told in greater detail, would make for amazing novels. A definite recommend.
TheSecret Language of Women is an exquisitely detailed, romantic, historical novel set in China at the turn of the 19th Century The novel showcases this author's immense talent as a researcher and creative, imaginative story teller. Truly, it’s a gem filled with hidden treasures.
Brilliant! this book really brings the characters to life, I highly recommend!